JERUSALEM (Aug. 4)
The largest wedding ever held in the modern history of Israel ended joyously at dawn Wednesday, as the last of 30,000 guests departed from the 429-ft-long tent erected for the occasion in the Jerusalem Hasidic suburb of Kiryat Belz.
Aharon Mordechai, 17, only son and heir of Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the rebbe of Belz, had taken as his bride Sarah-Leah Lemberger, daughter of a devout but little-known rabbi, Shimon Lemberger, from the northern township of Kiryat Ata.
“She is her own ‘yichus’,” jubilant Belzer Hasidim told outsiders, referring to her family heritage. “Our rebbe wanted a student at one of our seminaries, who has all the qualities and merits.”
Sarah-Leah and her new husband were married by the groom’s grandfather, the 84-year-old rebbe of Vishnitz, on a huge platform-chupah under the stars.
Rabbi Eliezer Shach, 94, leader of the non Hasidic fervently Orthodox Jews in Israel, came from Bnei Brak to bless the young couple under the chupah.
For the Belz Hasidic community, the second largest in Israel after Ger, the wedding marked the high-point in a process of rapid — in the Hasidim’s view, miraculous — recovery from near-total annihilation in the Holocaust.
The previous rebbe, Aharon Rokeach, escaped to Palestine through Hungary, a broken man, to head a sect that had been reduced from tens of thousands to a few hundred.
Now the wedding brought together thousands of Hasidim from Belzer branches around the world and many thousands more in Israel itself.
One-and-a-half tons of gefilte fish and 39,000 gallons of soft drinks were among the items on the caterer’s menu in what was surely the largest meal eaten in the city since Temple times.
Earlier in the week, reviving a “rebbisher” tradition, the Belzer rebbe gave a prenuptial feast for the poor of Jerusalem. Yissachar Dov himself poured the drinks and served the food for the dozens of beggars and tramps gathered in the Belzer yeshiva, and handed each of them 200 shekels, the equivalent of about $70.